The Green Beat

By Anna Waugh

On Sunday, Feb. 10 more than 50 students participated in The Light Bulb Switchout, a competition that pitted first-years against students from the other classes. It was the largest changing of the bulbs that Macalester has ever seen, with 2,200 four-foot florescent bulbs in the library and Olin Rice exchanged for higher efficiency bulbs. The newly installed bulbs will save the college’s electric bill $25 to $30 thousand a year. They will also burn approximately two thousand hours longer than their predecessors, and keep about 590 tons of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere. The old bulbs are being recycled by Retrofit Recycling.

Sunday’s competition was just one part of a larger effort spearheaded by Justin Lee ’08 to change all of the bulbs on campus – up to 18,000 – by May. This effort has gained wide support in light of President Rosenberg’s recent signing of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an agreement that pledges the college to take substantial action in reducing carbon emissions.

The Light Bulb Switchout was coincidentally scheduled during the National Campus Energy Challenge, a competition in which colleges compete to reduce emissions during the month of February. This should give Mac an added advantage in the competition, said Matt Kazinka ’11, who helped organize The Light Bulb Switchout.

Lee began thinking about changing all of the bulbs on campus after talking to Ed Gerten, a Macalester maintenance engineer and electrician, over the summer. He then took Gerten’s idea and began to research ways to get funding for the project. Kazinka joined the team in September and over the course of the semester they found funding from the Macalester trustees and the CERF fund – $70,000 in all. The $35,000 allocation from CERF will be repaid to the fund over the next few years as the college sees energy savings.

Over January, all of the bulbs in the hallways of the freshman and sophomore dorms were changed, as well as those in GDD.

Facilities, led by Director of Facilities Management Mark Dickinson, has been involved in the planning and has supported the effort by providing labor and food to volunteers. Jim Davidson, a custodial supervisor came in for the event, on a day off, to help change bulbs. The library opened two hours later on Sunday morning in order to give volunteers a chance to change bulbs without interruption. For the students it has been a learning process.

“I changed my first bulb last Saturday,” Lee said, emphasizing that anyone at any level of experience can get involved in the effort to conserve energy.

The first year class won the first Light Bulb Switchout, changing 1,300 bulbs in Olin Rice. The other classes collectively changed 850 bulbs in the library. Lee indicated that there may be another competition before the end of the semester.

This issue of the Green Beat is the first of an ongoing column that will focus on environmental issues at and around Macalester.